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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How to Raise $800K in One Night, SLSO-Style

Posted By on Tue, Oct 27, 2009 at 11:04 AM

First thing, you throw a party.  People like parties. Even if they have somewhat cheesy names like "A Noteworthy Affair." Hold it on a Saturday night, say October 24, when there's not much else going on.

Make sure it's at some classy venue. People are much more likely to open their wallets if they're someplace like Powell Hall or the Coronado Ballroom that has gold (or at least gilt) on the walls than in a dive bar covered in grime. Even if there is a tip jar.

Emphasize that even though you are charging admission, the money is going to a Worthy Cause that is supported by rich people, like the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. Rich people like classical music. It makes them feel cultured. (Not sure where this presumption came from, but it certainly perpetuates itself in movies like A Night at the Opera and Pretty Woman. Yeah, those were opera, but hey, Mozart is still Mozart, right?)
Also emphasize the exclusivity of the occasion by charging a minimum of $750 to attend, though, of course, guests are permitted, nay, encouraged, to pay much, much, much more. That ought to keep the hoi polloi out. Threaten waitlisting, in bold red type on the promotional web site, if people don't get their tickets immediately. Also discontinue, for one night, the most excellent $10 student ticket program.

Arrange some kick-ass celebrity entertainment like Yo-Yo Ma soloing in Dvořák's Cello Concerto and David Robertson conducting the SLSO through Schubert's Eighth Symphony (the "Unfinished" one). Your guests are paying a shitload of money; they deserve the finest you've got, and definitely not any of that super-annoying modernist crap. Only music professors like that stuff, and they're poor.

If you must have a change of venue, even if it requires traveling a single block, arrange shuttle buses to transport the guests. Have you not read that scene in Bonfire of the Vanities where Tom Wolfe explains, in excruciating detail, why Sherman and Judy McCoy must hire a limo, at the cost of several hundred dollars per hour, to take them to a party six blocks from their apartment? Rich people, and people who want to look rich, don't walk.

Corporate sponsorship, like Centene and Enterprise and Ameren UE, helps.

Et voila! Eight hundred grand, from 500 guests. That's net, by the way. Not gross.

'"A Noteworthy Affair' was first of all a fundraiser," says the SLSO's President and Executive Director Fred Bronstein. "It was also another way in which we sought to build the brand and build the visibility of the orchestra. We wanted to create a signature event--a not-to-be-missed evening. And we wanted people to have a really wonderful time. I think we succeeded on all counts."

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